Kwaidan (film)

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Kwaidan
Kwaidanposterjapanese.jpg
Directed by Masaki Kobayashi
Produced by Shigeru Wakatsuki
Written by Yôko Mizuki
Based on stories by Lafcadio Hearn
Starring Rentarō Mikuni
Keiko Kishi
Michiyo Aratama
Misako Watanabe
Tatsuya Nakadai
Music by Toru Takemitsu
Cinematography Yoshio Miyajima
Distributed by Toho Company Ltd.
Release dates
  • December 29, 1964 (1964-12-29)
Running time 183 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Kwaidan (怪談 Kaidan?, literally "ghost stories") is a 1964 Japanese anthology horror film directed by Masaki Kobayashi. It is based on stories from Lafcadio Hearn's collections of Japanese folk tales, mainly Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things, for which it is named. The film consists of four separate and unrelated stories. Kwaidan is an archaic transliteration of Kaidan, meaning "ghost story". It won the Special Jury Prize at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival,[1] and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.[2]

The four stories[edit]

"The Black Hair" was adapted from "The Reconciliation", which appeared in Hearn's collection Shadowings (1900). An impoverished man living in Kyoto divorces his wife, a weaver, for another woman, in order to attain greater social status. He soon regrets marrying his 2nd wife when he learns how shallow, callous and impatient she is in comparison to his first wife's impeccable patience, devotion and kindness. When the man returns home to reconcile with his devoted 1st wife, he is in for a shocking and eerie surprise.

"The Woman of the Snow" is adapted from Hearn's Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (1903). It depicts the folkloric character of Yuki-onna, a ghostly female figure who inhabits snowy regions. When Minokichi and Mosaku take refuge inside a fisherman's hut during a snow storm, Yuki-onna appears and takes the life of Mosaku. Although she spares Minokichi because of his youth, Yuki-onna warns him never to mention what happened that day or she will finish the job and kill him. Though he keeps his word, Minokichi is surprised when he meets a young woman resembling somewhat of the ghost he encountered, which after decades he breaks his promise.

"Hoichi the Earless" is also adapted from Hearn's Kwaidan (though it incorporates aspects of The Tale of the Heike that are mentioned, but never translated, in Hearn's book).[citation needed] It depicts the folkloric tale of Hoichi the Earless, a blind musician, or biwa hoshi, whose specialty is singing The Tale of the Heike, about the Battle of Dan-no-ura, fought between the Taira and Minamoto clans during the last phase of the Genpei War. He is subsequently called in to sing for a royal family. His friends and priests grows concerned that he may be singing for ghosts as soon as he answered the call. To protect Hoichi, they write all over his body a protective manuscript known as Heart Soul and he must go outside in meditation.

"In a Cup of Tea" is adapted from Hearn's Kottō: Being Japanese Curios, with Sundry Cobwebs (1902). A writer who is anticipating a visit from the publisher, keeps seeing faces in a cup of tea.

Cast[edit]

Style[edit]

While Kwaidan is often described as a horror film, it is not gory or sensational, relying instead on slow buildups of tension and on quiet suspense. Kobayashi's visual style is expressionist, using obviously artificial sets and colorful backdrops lit from behind for many of his outdoor scenes, lending them an almost fairy tale-like quality (the graveyard scenes in "Hōichi the Earless" and the background depicting the giant eye of "The Woman of the Snow" are examples).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Kwaidan". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-03-04. 
  2. ^ "The 38th Academy Awards (1966) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-11-06. 

External links[edit]

Text of Lafcadio Hearn stories that were adapted for Kwaidan
Awards
Preceded by
Woman in the Dunes
Special Jury Prize, Cannes
1965
Succeeded by
Alfie